Alligator’s Diverse Diet

As an iNaturalist project admin, I completed a review of over 19,000 American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) observations uploaded to iNaturalist between 2009 and December 31, 2020. Photographs which depicted an American Alligator eating a prey item were added to the iNat Alligator Appetites Project. The result revealed a gruesome smorgasbord of dainties enjoyed by this giant reptile.

Caution Do Not Feed Alligators Warning sign in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. State and Federal laws prohibit the feeding and harassments in National Parks and Wildlife Refuges. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

In his 1935 book titled The Alligator’s Life History, E.A. McIlhenny (of the Tabasco family) wrote, “It is quite safe to say that the food of the alligator at some period of its life, consists of every living thing coming in range of its jaws that flies, walks, swims, or crawls that is small enough for them to kill, and covers a tremendously wide range. After they reach three feet in length and larger, any creature inhabiting the land or water which they can catch and swallow is good food.” This is no doubt a true statement!

A review of the 110 observations added to the project, fish and reptiles nearly tied for the top prey items at about 25% each, with birds and mammals nearly tying in second place around 14% each. Truly, the American Alligator is an opportunist that doesn’t discriminate or turn its nose up at a particular menu item… even another alligator!

A breakdown of the iNaturalist observations showing alligators with prey is as follows:

​• Fish 26%
• Reptiles 25% (20 turtles, 4 alligators and 3 snakes)
• Birds 15% (4 Great Egrets, 2 Gallinules, 1 Red-winged Blackbird, 9 unidentifiable)
• Mammals 14% (4 feral pigs, 4 nutria, 3 raccoon, 1 deer, 1 opossum, 2 unidentifiable)
• Unknown/Other Prey 19% (11 unidentifiable, 8 human handouts, 1 crab, 1 frog)

Published by William Wise

Hi, I’m conservation photographer and nature writer William Wise. Nature journaling and wildlife photography has been a favorite pastime since the ‘90s. I graduated from University of Georgia Warnell Forestry School's wildlife program in 1996. I'm currently an animal shelter manager/photographer and reside in Athens, Georgia, USA with my wife and two teenage daughters. My website www.williamwisephoto.com is a wildlife and birding photo website documenting the beauty, design and wonder of creation. I have a deep love of the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. I became a devoted Christian in 1993 under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. I am also a guest author at Lee's Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club. The theme of my blogging comes from The Message version of Psalms 104 -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."

4 thoughts on “Alligator’s Diverse Diet

  1. Thank you, William, for the interesting information on what alligators eat. I knew that alligators could prey on deer. The alien Burmese Pythons in the Everglades can kill deer and alligators. In one of the annual python hunts, It was discovered that one python contained both a mother deer and her fawn!

    Enjoy your weekend! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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